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TMCNet:  Council Holds Discussion On Technical Cooperation In Advancing The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

[June 26, 2014]

Council Holds Discussion On Technical Cooperation In Advancing The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities

(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) GENEVA, June 25 -- The United Nations Office at Geneva issued the following news release: The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual thematic discussion on technical cooperation, focusing on technical cooperation and capacity-building in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities through legal and institutional frameworks, including public-private partnerships.


Flavia Pansieri, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in opening remarks, said that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities remained one of the key areas of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' technical cooperation programmes. The Office worked to promote the human rights-based approach to disability and the challenging paradigm shift that this entailed for policy, law, programmes and practice. Considerable advances on making the rights of persons with disabilities a reality had been made, but much more remained to be done.

Mariclaire Acosta Urquidi, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, also in opening remarks, said that effective technical cooperation should contribute to the enjoyment of rights for all sections of the population, including persons with disabilities, focusing on specific strategies to address particular demands. A rights-based approach was essential for achieving sustainable results. When the principles of participation, non-discrimination, and accountability and the rule of law were applied thoroughly during the process, the opportunities for achieving tangible results were higher.

The panel discussion was moderated by Krerkpan Roekchamnong, Deputy Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who hoped that the discussion would provide an opportunity to exchange views, experiences and practices, and build and expand on the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner.

Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said that technical cooperation was of particular importance to the Committee as it promoted achieving the objectives and goals of the Convention. The Committee had adopted and implemented a synergistic approach, creating synergies within and outside the United Nations, believing this fostered real technical cooperation in a globalized world. International cooperation had to consider development projects which were inclusive and accessible, with full participation from persons with disabilities on the basis of a rights-based approach.

Wriya Namsiripongpun, Former member of the National Legislative Assembly and advisor to the Senate Committee on Children, Youth and Social Development, Women, the Elderly, the Disabled and the Disadvantaged, Thailand, indicated that the 1991 Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities Act provided fundamental and comprehensive rights-based law for persons with disabilities, with a strong anti-discrimination section in terms of medical care and services, education, social responsibilities, and employment. Persons with disabilities also had rights to access information, news, telecommunication and communication, and all technological facilities for persons with disabilities.

Rosangela Berman Bieler, Chief of the Disability Section, United Nations Children's Fund, presented the Fund's global approach to disability inclusive programming and said that disability issues were mainstreamed and cut across all programme outcomes. The vision post-2015 was that children with disabilities were more visible in national data collection and analysis, that they were safe from stigma and violence, that children with and without disabilities played together, that girls with disability had greater access to opportunities to realize their potential; and that funding for humanitarian action took into account the needs of children with disabilities.

Yannis Vardakastanis, Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance, said that the Alliance had a very clear mission and very clear vision: to promote full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities without reservations and exceptions. This should be done in consultation with persons with disabilities. Progress had been made in placing the rights of persons with disabilities on the agenda in many different areas; however, much greater investment in technical cooperation and capacity building to make the rights real was needed.

Ingrid Ihme, Head of Telenor Open Mind, Norway, stressed the importance of the capacity of persons with disabilities to sustain themselves and their families: this required jobs and a well-organized welfare system. Telenor's Open Mind programme was a supported employment programme for persons with disabilities, based on the creation of a win-win-win situation: a win for the company because they gained excellent loyal workers; for the participants who got a chance to use their skills; and for society, as participants went from receiving benefits to becoming tax payers.

During the discussion, speakers highlighted the importance of public-private cooperation, as well as with non-governmental organizations, as part of measures to increase accessibility, inclusion, and the exercise of human rights. Delegations also stressed the importance of integrating persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development framework, including through disability-specific programmes as well as mainstreaming the needs for persons with disabilities in development. The United Nations Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities constituted an effective mechanism to increase technical cooperation in line with the Convention. Speakers asked panellists to address how the United Nations partnership, considering the different experiences and systems in each country, could consolidate this diversity for institutional improvements. In which areas was international or inter-agency cooperation most needed? Speaking during the discussion were Costa Rica on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Philippines on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations, European Union, Iran, Cuba, Spain, Maldives, Morocco, Qatar, Ireland, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, United States, Norway, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Finland, Sudan, Austria, Russia, Italy, Brazil, Thailand, International Labour Organization, Viet Nam, Benin, Gabon and Ecuador.

The following non-governmental organization also took the floor: Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings. At 1.30 p.m., it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on Cote d'Ivoire, and will then hear the presentation of the reports of the High Commissioner and the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation, followed by a general debate on technical assistance and capacity-building.

Opening Statements FLAVIA PANSIERI, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities remained one of the key areas of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' technical cooperation programmes. Increased ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol was being seen, and this had led to more demands for technical assistance by States parties. The Office worked to promote the human rights-based approach to disability and the challenging paradigm shift that this entailed for policy, law, programmes and practice. The Office also promoted the participation of persons with disabilities in all legislative and policy-making processes, not only issues specifically concerning disability. Furthermore, support was provided to an increasing number of specialized bodies, focal points and independent national human rights institutions working in this field. Experience showed that more technical capacity needed to be built both within the United Nations system and at the national level. Technical cooperation could also involve non-State parties, including the private sector. As part of their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities, States should encourage businesses to adopt the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Human rights mechanisms continued to provide useful guidance on ways to achieve progress in the daily lives of persons with disabilities in all parts of the world. The jurisprudence developed by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provided a sound basis for the technical cooperation and advisory work of the United Nations. The Office was part of the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which managed a Multi Donor Trust Fund. All Member States were encouraged to continue to contribute to the Fund, as well as to the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation. The post-2015 development agenda would provide new opportunities for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The direct involvement of States was needed to guarantee that the rights of persons with disabilities were properly reflected in the forthcoming set of agreed goals. Considerable advances on making the rights of persons with disabilities a reality had been made, but much more remained to be done. All were invited to be part of this process and to support the various mechanisms in the United Nations system that worked for a better framework to ensure that persons with disabilities could participate in society on an equal basis with others.

MARICLAIRE ACOSTA URQUIDI, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, in opening remarks, said that the panel's theme had led the Board to reflect on the role of effective technical cooperation in ensuring better protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities. This area had seen a significant increase in demand for technical cooperation and advisory services, not only for supporting States in their obligations regarding the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but also for its effective implementation. The rapidly growing number of ratifications had led to increased demand for assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner and from the Voluntary Fund for assistance in reviewing compliance of national legislation and policies with the Convention, national implementation and monitoring mechanisms. Effective technical cooperation should contribute to the enjoyment of the rights for all sections of the population, including persons with disabilities, focusing on specific strategies to address particular demands. A rights-based approach was essential for achieving sustainable results. The Board had observed that when the principles of participation, non-discrimination, and accountability and the rule of law were applied thoroughly during the process, the opportunities for achieving tangible results were higher.

Establishing or strengthening national frameworks and institutions to adequately ensure the enjoyment of human rights was a key component of technical cooperation. The challenges faced by persons with disabilities should be specifically included in national plans, the work of national human rights institutions, and access to justice. Ms. Acosta Urquidi also provided examples of technical cooperation efforts undertaken by field presences of the Office of the High Commissioner receiving support from the Fund in Niger, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Mexico, Paraguay, Honduras, Palestine, Republic of Moldova, and Papua New Guinea, hoping that it would animate the discussion today. The Board was committed to ensuring that the Fund contributed to the empowerment of persons with disabilities and expected those field presences receiving support from the Fund to have a specific focus on the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. The Board would continue to encourage the systematisation and sharing of good practices as well as the development of specific projects addressing the full enjoyment of human rights of persons with disabilities.

Statements by Panellists KRERKPAN ROEKCHAMNONG, Deputy Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Panel Moderator, hoped that today's discussion would be an opportunity for an exchange of views, experiences and practices, and would build and expand on the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner. The panellists were then introduced.

MARIA SOLEDAD CISTERNAS REYES, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said technical cooperation was of particular importance to the Committee in as much as it promoted achieving the objectives of the Convention and its goals. The Committee had adopted and implemented a synergistic approach, creating synergies within and outside the United Nations, believing this fostered real technical cooperation in a globalized world. The Committee had felt that it had two basic legal instruments to use: Article 32 of the Convention on the importance of technical cooperation among States, the United Nations and civil society organizations; and Article 37 which delineated another important area, in as much as States were to support the work of the Committee. The Committee was also entitled to enter into technical cooperation vis-r-vis States. Jurisprudence of the Committee provided important substantive content for the guidance of those in charge of technical cooperation. International cooperation had to consider development projects which were inclusive and accessible, with full participation from persons with disabilities on the basis of a rights-based approach. The Committee had carried out technical cooperation with other United Nations treaty bodies that had incorporated the norms of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

WIRIYA NAMSIRIPONGPUN, Former member of the National Legislative Assembly and Advisor to the Senate Committee on Children, Youth and Social Development, Women, the Elderly, the Disabled and the Disadvantaged, Thailand, said that the 1991 Rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities Act provided fundamental and comprehensive rights-based law for persons with disabilities, with a strong anti-discrimination section in terms of medical care and services, education, social responsibilities, and employment. On education, the 1999 National Education Act stated that persons with disabilities were entitled to receive education comparable to other persons. In 2007, the Ministry of Education broadened their right to education up to bachelor degree, free of change. Schools had to provide facilities for persons with disabilities. Laws limiting disability rights in careers and Government services had been repealed. On social welfare, the Persons with Disabilities Quality of Life Promotion stipulated that States had to provide monthly welfare allowance for persons with disabilities, which would enable them to adapt their housing facility in order to be suitable for persons with disabilities, and to have a personal assistant and a sign language interpreter. Thailand was the third country in Asia that provided a service centre for the deaf. Persons with disabilities also had rights to access information, news, telecommunication and communication, and all technological facilities for persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities had the right to appeal on any discriminatory actions to the National Office for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

ROSANGELA BERMAN BIELER, Director of the Disability Unit, United Nations Children's Fund, presented the United Nations Children Fund's global approach to disability inclusive programming and said that disability issues were mainstreamed and cut across all programme outcomes. The vision post-2015 was that children with disabilities were, inter alia, more visible in national data collection and analysis, that they were safe from stigma and violence, that children with and without disabilities played together, that girls with disability had greater access to opportunities to realize their potential; and that funding for humanitarian action took into account the needs of children with disabilities. The programming followed human rights-based approaches to disability and the United Nations Children's Fund was working closely with the Global Partnership on Education to achieve inclusive education strategies to ensure that children with and without disability achieved quality learning. The United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a joint collaborative strategy to advance disability rights around the world, which supported the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by facilitating coalition-building and capacity development at country, regional and global levels. In the course of 2014, the Partnership would undertake a number of activities to strengthening the voice of persons with disabilities on the post-2015 development agenda.

YANNIS VARDAKASTANIS, Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance, said that the Alliance had a very clear mission and very clear vision: to promote full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities without reservations and exceptions. This should be done in consultation with persons with disabilities. It was clear that progress had been made in placing the rights of persons with disabilities on the agenda in many different areas; however, there was a need for much greater investment in technical cooperation and capacity building to make the rights real. This meant that there was a need to move quickly from words to deeds, and to advance more actively the shift of paradigm toward the non-discrimination of persons with disabilities. Doing so was not only the matter of available resources, but was about the design of social innovation and the readiness of the mainstream systems to change. The global South should be at the forefront of technical cooperation and capacity building. The adoption of the Convention should really mean a social earthquake to bring down mind sets and systems that put persons with disabilities in situations of charity and denial of rights. There was still a huge implementation gap, and one of the major limitations was the lack of a dedicated fund, such as UNICEF for child's rights.

INGRID IHME, Director of Telenor Open Mind, Norway, said that the most important thing for persons with disabilities was to be able to sustain themselves and their families. In order to do so, they needed a job and a well-organized welfare system in their country. Telenor was among the largest mobile operators in the world and the Open Mind programme was a supported employment programme for persons with disabilities which started in 1996 and was based on creating win-win-win situation. It was a win for the company because they gained excellent loyal workers; a win for the participants who got a chance to use their skills; and a win for the society, when participants went from receiving benefits to being tax payers. Telenor had the programme in place because it wanted to recruit from the whole of the population and the ambition was to have Open Mind programmes in all the countries where Telenor operated. The programme was composed of recruitment, a qualification period, and work practice. States should get their companies to join the International Labour Organization Business and Disability Network.

Discussion Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, indicated that close to 12 per cent of the region's population lived with at least one disability but they did not constitute a homogenous group, different groups were affected in particular ways. Public-private cooperation, including with non-governmental organizations, was vital for the adoption of measures to increase accessibility, inclusion, and the exercise of human rights. Philippines, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said that the Association prioritised disability-inclusive development and underlined the importance of technical cooperation. The United Nations Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities constituted an effective mechanism to increase technical cooperation in line with the Convention; considering the different experiences and systems in each country, how could the Partnership consolidate this diversity for institutional improvements. European Union was a strong advocate for the integration of the disability dimension into the post-2015 development framework and related goals. In line with the Convention, the European Union pursued a twin track approach including disability-specific programmes and mainstreaming the needs of persons with disabilities in all development programmes. In which areas was international or inter-agency cooperation most needed? Cuba said the issue ought to be of greater priority amongst the areas that the Office of the High Commissioner worked on. The many requests for technical assistance confirmed that it was very urgent to promote international cooperation to progress in dealings on this issue, which should be included in the post-2015 development agenda. Spain said that a rights based approach was vital. Spain encouraged States to include the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its themes in recommendations during the Universal Periodic Review. A major challenge regarded the collection of data and indicators had to be improved to determine the extent to which the Convention was being implemented. Morocco said that the Convention had given a new rights-based approach set of ideas and Morocco was among the first countries to have ratified it. The development of an integrated approach had been a priority of public policies for the integration of persons with disabilities in the country. Maldives called for further technical cooperation at the regional and international levels. In order to ensure accessibility for and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of development, States had to establish strong institutional and legislative frameworks. Iran had gradually stepped up its work on the rights of persons with disabilities with a view that persons with disabilities had access, on an equal basis with others, to all services, information and communications, and to other facilities and processes in order to enable them to fully participate in all aspects of life.

Qatar was committed to offering inclusive education to persons with disabilities and ensuring their integration in the labour market; to that end, it had in place several programmes including providing technology for social, economic and other rehabilitation and integration of persons with disabilities. Ireland stressed the importance of this discussion for the 15 per cent of the world's population who lived with some form of disability. Ireland was proud to have funded since 2002 the International Labour Organization programmes for the employment of persons with disabilities. New Zealand agreed that the Convention was both a rights and development tool and it actively considered the rights of persons with disabilities in its development programmes, nationally and internationally. The post-2015 development agenda provided a critical juncture to address inequalities and New Zealand supported efforts to ensure they were included in goals and targets post-2015. Sri Lanka had amended its legislation to bring it in line with the Convention, and provided various forms of assistance through Government schemes to persons with disabilities in conflict-affected areas. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that many countries did not provide even minimum controls to prevent disability, including banning the use of mines and cleaning minefields after conflicts, or using amputations as punishment, as was the case in Iran.

KRERKPAN ROEKCHAMNONG, Deputy Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Panel Moderator, noted that most of the interventions had made reference to national measures and attached importance to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 agenda, as well as regarding the commitment and empowerment of persons with disabilities in the process. Concerning national approaches to the situation of persons with disabilities, Mr. Roekchamnong indicated that there had been a few questions, including concerning the United Nations Partnership; the United Nations Children's Fund approach to teaching; as well as other questions concerning reasonable accommodation.

WIRIYA NAMSIRIPONGPUN, Former member of the National Legislative Assembly and advisor to the Senate Committee on Children, Youth and Social Development, Women, the Elderly, the Disabled and the Disadvantaged, Thailand, said that reasonable accommodation was directly enshrined in the Convention. National legislation enacted to implement the Convention should be provided by law to those who needed it, with the financial means provided to make it real. Partnerships were very important and what had been said concerning technical cooperation and capacity building related to partnerships. All partnerships should include persons with disabilities and include their views. The post-2015 development agenda was not a theoretical process, it should lead to concrete results and there should be clear indicators and disaggregated data, including disabilities, in order to produce tangible results.

ROSANGELA BERMAN BIELER, Chief of the Disability Section, United Nations Children's Fund, responding to a question concerning how to support teachers, said that the Fund was coordinating with donors through a working group established in the context of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities. Among other measures, the Fund had adopted the policy of ensuring that no new buildings would be constructed, as part of their assistance projects, if they were not accessible to children with disabilities. The Fund was also working on data collection tools and national data collection processes to ensure that children with disabilities were visible and their needs could be addressed. Access, teacher training, and data collection were three important areas on which the Fund was working at the moment. In response to a question, she said that the United Nations and local organizations were available to cooperate with national Governments on the ground. Governments should request technical support from country teams, as mechanisms were ready for collaboration and technical support.

United States said that public-private partnerships played an important role in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Disability rights were human rights, which was why the United States had a comprehensive legal act providing for such persons, and they could not be discriminated against by employers. Norway stated that persons with disabilities had the right to work en par with others. Having said that, only 43 per cent of disabled people in Norway were employed. Telenor was one of the leaders in providing disabled persons friendly working space. What were the most effective best practices on private-public partnerships? Indonesia was fully committed to expediting the rights of persons with disabilities, and mainstreaming that area on the national development agenda. Indonesia was currently harmonizing its national policies with the international legal instruments. Turkey supported the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in public life, and had launched a number of relevant projects in that regard. Persons with disabilities in Turkey could submit complaints to human rights agencies if their rights were violated. Australia was implementing its domestic disability agenda, ensuring that persons with disabilities could fully participate in all facets of Australian daily life. Australia supported disability-inclusive development and was proud to back the United Nations Partnership on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Finland was committed to ratifying the Disabilities Convention by 2015 and was working to ensure that Finnish legislation fully corresponded to its requirements. The post-2015 development agenda provided the opportunity to reinvigorate efforts and reduce inequalities, including for persons with disabilities. Sudan reiterated the importance of international cooperation and the role of civil society and non-governmental organizations in helping persons with disabilities. Sudan had translated articles of the Convention into practice in the area of education and had set up an agency dedicated to the education of persons with disabilities within the Ministry of Education. Austria adopted an inclusive approach in its development cooperation and accorded great attention to removing individual and societal barriers. It was crucial that the post-2015 agenda adequately reflected accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in order to fully realize their rights. Russia said that the 2012 ratification of the Convention gave a fresh impetus to the policy to ensure equal rights for persons with disabilities. Russia had drafted the federal bill aiming to integrate the provisions of the Convention in national law, while its State programme on accessible environment was a good example of a barrier-free environment. Italy was studying the needs of persons with disabilities in disaster and conflict areas and was designing measures to include in humanitarian aid programmes which would ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. Brazil said that the model it had adopted would see State policy axed on two approaches: education and training, and the promotion of social dialogue. It was important to bring together actors with technical capacities in the area of disability and those who had the resources to support initiatives. Thailand asked the panellists about the most critical challenges that Member States faced at the political and practical level to implement their human rights obligations with regard to persons with disabilities, and also what United Nations and international organizations could do to assist States in overcoming them.

International Labour Organization was actively engaged in promoting employment and social protection for persons with disabilities, in line with the Convention. The ILO framework constituted a good example of public-private partnerships which also benefitted from the experience of large business, such as Telenor. In order to address the current workload, additional resources for technical cooperation were needed. Viet Nam said that ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities constituted an important responsibility of all States. However, given the lack of necessary resources, work to increase States' capacity through cooperation and capacity building should be supported by the international community. Benin welcomed the annual discussion on technical cooperation and took the opportunity to express gratitude to all technical and financial partners who had been supporting it in the field of human rights. Gabon said that appropriate technical and financial support was required in order to take measures to address the needs of persons with disabilities. Gabon had taken a number of legislative measures and policies to reduce the costs of access to education and health for persons with disabilities. National efforts would be more effective if supported by the international community. Ecuador agreed on the need for joint efforts to strengthen technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, who should be protagonists of this process. Specialised services also required efforts towards social awareness and the empowerment of persons with disabilities, which entailed addressing cultural and other invisible barriers.

ROSANGELA BERMAN BIELER, Director of the Disability Unit, United Nations Children's Fund, stressed the importance of the United Nations mechanisms. A good example was using money coming for the multi-donor funds, which allowed for implementation of the Convention in countries such as Sudan and Somalia. UNICEF's work on disability was one of its 2014 flagships, and a special package on disability in emergency was being developed now.

YANNIS VARDAKASTANIS, Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance, said that the work was now focused on post-2015 sustainable development goals. Information was being collected on target indicators and the issue of statistics was seen as very pertinent. Non-accessibility should mean there would be no funding. While achievements made thus far should be celebrated, there was a need for a clear message from the top of the United Nations that a high-level forum on public-private partnership ought to be convened in order to move the issue forward.

INGRID IHME, Head of Telenor Open Mind, Norway, said that the business network was very powerful and was implementing good practices from all over the world.

KRERKPAN ROEKCHAMNONG, Deputy Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Panel Moderator, in concluding observations, said that the speakers emphasized the importance of technical and international cooperation in advancing the cause of persons with disabilities and that this required efforts from all. Laws must be amended and accessibility was indispensable to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities were realized and respected.

MARICLAIRE ACOSTA URQUIDI, Member of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, in her concluding remarks said that inclusive technical cooperation was crucial in regard to persons with disabilities. There was a need to further study technical challenges to the realization of the rights of persons with disabilities. It was also recommended to compile a collection of good practices.

WIRIYA NAMSIRIPONGPUN, Former member of the National Legislative Assembly and advisor to the Senate Committee on Children, Youth and Social Development, Women, the Elderly, the Disabled and the Disadvantaged, Thailand, said in closing remarks that the content of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must be transposed into national laws. Next, the focus must be on creating a barrier-free environment and empowering and financing civil society organizations working on disability issues. The empowerment of persons with disabilities and their organization was crucial.

ROSANGELA BERMAN BIELER, Director of the Disability Unit, United Nations Children's Fund, said in her closing remarks that the United Nations system, individually and collectively, was building its own capacity to be able to respond to the capacity building needs of societies in general to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The United Nations was not working on a specific issue, but on crosscutting issues required for building inclusive societies for all.

YANNIS VARDAKASTANIS, Chairperson of the International Disability Alliance, in closing remarks thanked all for organizing this discussion today and echoed that synergies needed to be developed; cooperation and capacity building for persons with disabilities and their organizations were of paramount importance and were at the heart of the Convention's provisions. This must be kept in mind when designing laws, policies, technical assistance and international cooperation measures.

INGRID IHME, Head of Telenor Open Mind, Norway, in her closing observations shared the experience of the Open Mind programme in Pakistan and said that, regardless of significant differences between Pakistan and Norway, the people were the same. The labour market was key in building inclusion.

TNS 30FurigayJane-140626-4779068 30FurigayJane (c) 2014 Targeted News Service

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